For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].
As Christians, we must understand the battle and struggles that we face with the devil’s temptations and lies. We are told in James 1 to “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” The devil tempts us, distracts us, lies to us, and fights against us in our walk as a Christian. The devil’s tactics seem overwhelming and more than we can handle. In this article, we are going to examine what spiritual warfare is, the internal battles we face, and how we are to fight against the spiritual wickedness in high places.
What is Spiritual Warfare?
To some, there may seem to be an obvious answer but, in today’s world of emotionally driven and shallow Christianity, we must take the time to give a clear Biblical definition of what a spiritual battle is and looks like.
In defining the term “spiritual warfare” we must first note that not once in the KJV Bible is this phrase ever used. When we use this phrase it describes the battle that a Christian experiences when they are fighting against the wiles of the devil. One way to explain spiritual warfare is by comparing it to physical war. Military battles are fought for the purpose of controlling territory or for inalienable rights or to gain power. In World War II, Nazi Germany was fighting against surrounding nations for the purpose of growing the German territory and eradicating unwanted individuals. The Allies fought against Hitler’s political campaigns because of the atrocious acts of the Nazi military. It is often like this with our spiritual battles with Satan. Satan is about committing egregious attacks. The scriptures state that Satan is walking about “seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). As we battle with Satan and his temptations, we will experience the fierceness of the battle because it is Satan’s goal to completely entangle and destroy us in his traps and snares. In 2 Timothy 2:26 we see this statement about Satan’s strategy when he fights against us, “And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” It is a battle to fight against Satan and get ourselves out of his snares and resist his demonic will. In one instance, spiritual warfare is defined as, “the act of fighting against Satan when he tries to keep us from God’s calling. The enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy so when we are pursuing Christ, he tries to accomplish all of those things” (Shyann Swearingen in Just Disciple). For the clearest scriptural definition of spiritual warfare, let’s return again to 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” I believe this verse gives us the clearest definition of Spiritual Warfare in the phrase “resist stedfast in the faith.” As Christians, we are not fighting if we are not fighting by faith and the primary way to fight against the devil is to “resist stedfast.”
The Battle Within
The battle of spiritual warfare is not only fought with the things of this world but also within us. In truth, our most frequent spiritual battles take place within our own selves. Listen carefully to Paul as he poetically articulates the battle he faces within himself.
“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that [it is] good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:14-25).
In this passage, you can hear the internal conflict of two natures within him, the spiritual and the natural/carnal. One desires to follow Christ, the other desires to do what is pleasing to self. And when our carnal mind is being tempted, we enter into spiritual warfare. The battle is to resist the flesh, resist the devil, deny self, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. This is all out warfare, but, we thank God that because of Jesus Christ our Lord and through the Holy Spirit, we can fight the battles and walk victoriously. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).
It would do us no good to focus our attention in this article on the idea of spiritual warfare and not look at the actual process of the war. Therefore, we take the action words in 1 Peter 5:9, “resist steadfast in the faith,” to begin understanding what the battle looks like.
To resist is a verb that clarifies the action that we are to be actively doing. We are to resist or set ourselves against or oppose or withstand. So, in resisting, we are going to work hard to oppose the work of Satan in our lives. To resist stedfast means that we are to work hard at opposing the attacks of Satan by being strong, firm, immovable, solid, devout, and faithful to Christ. The word picture that I get in my mind is the long-time field day activity at church camp and even way back from my days at Ware Street Elementary when we would play the game of tug of war. While Satan is working to pull us in his own direction, we are to set our feet firmly, put our weight in the opposite direction, and pull with all our strength. It is a battle to put all your weight into fighting not to cross that line and be taken captive by satan. The battle gets intense but our whole focus is to resist stedfast, flee in the opposite direction, and keep our eyes clearly focused on Jesus Christ.
There is an important passage of scripture that we need to recognize at this point though, with our analogy of a game of tug of war. This verse out of Zech. 4:6 states “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” We are not fighting these spiritual battles alone, pulling on that rope to no avail. Another passage helps us to grow into a healthier perspective of the Spirit of God fighting for us in the battles. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). This act of resisting stedfast is spiritual warfare, fighting against the attacks of Satan, through the mighty power of God.
An additional note that needs to be made as we begin to close out these thoughts on Spiritual Warfare. God has established a clear line of defense and protection for believers as we fight these spiritual battles. Pay careful attention to two passages of scriptures below.
The first passage comes out of Ephesians 6:10 – 18:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
We have both defensive and offensive methods of attack when we put on the whole armour of God. We should never go into battle against the wiles of the devil without the whole armour of God on. It behooves us as Christians to carefully study this passage, understanding the teaching and instruction of God on this armour and then carefully, intentionally, and confidently put on this armour and walk as the soldiers of Christ that we are called to be.
The second passage comes out of Ephesians 4:11-16:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
God has established for us his bride, the church, the people of God as well as roles and gifts within the body who are to fight with us as we fight these spiritual battles. The church is to work together for the purpose of perfecting or maturing the saints of God. Older parents who have already raised teenagers can speak into the life of younger parents who are currently raising teenagers about the pitfalls and struggles. Older men can teach the younger men how to overcome the wicked one. Older ladies can teach the younger ladies how to live soberly in Christ Jesus. When we isolate ourselves from the people of God and from the church of Jesus Christ, the devil is pleased. Satan loves nothing better than to get that lone sheep off to himself so that he can destroy, devour, and kill. Our battles ought to be fought alongside other believers.
One final thought, spiritual warfare is real. Satan doesn’t come at us to get us to reject God outright, his tactics are to make us forgetful. We forget about the armour and the family of God when we are in the midst of the battles. We forget that God will fight with us and go before us into the battles. We forget God’s commandments and the promise that if we keep His commandments we shall prosper and not fall in the day of battle. Satan is an excellent deceiver and his most pernicious dart that he will throw at us is forgetfulness. That is why it is my prayer that this article will simply remind us that there is a battle to fight and that when the battle is won, it isn’t for our own glory but for the Glory of Christ. If not for Jesus, we would have no hope but, because of Jesus, our life is about bringing him glory and honor for the victory that is ours in Him.
• Clay Gill is the Executive Director at Cord of Three. He is also a licensed professional counselor.